“Pompeii Live”: British Museum goes to the cinema

A live film broadcast to all cinemas across England that chronicles the last 24 hours of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum: this is the latest invention of the British Museum to promote its exhibition Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

On June 18 at 19.00 the British Museum sent from its headquarters an exciting 80-minute documentary film destined to 280 cinemas of the UK. Visitors were led by two presenters, that were joined by the historians, chefs and gardening experts. (Here the webpage and the trailer)

The documentary was designed as an exclusive ‘private view’ experience, where the most important experts in the field could tell the content of the exhibition.

The exhibition was a great success in the UK, with more than 80 percent of tickets sold. A special broadcast was done for school the 19 june too, and a recorded version of the event will be shown in over 1,000 cinemas worldwide from 29 August.

The documentary’s tone was narrative and very exciting. They were told human cases, life stories and examples of everyday life in Roman times. A chef has even tried to recreate the food eaten by the ancient Romans.

We have already discussed a similar initiative for the anniversary of Munch. It is a new method of enjoyment of art exhibitions that has born this year: the cinema exhibitions. These initiatives are modeled on the opera and prose broadcastings, and refer to the simultaneous transmission in the cinemas of documentaries organized by the museums. They are used both to communicate the contents of the exhibition, both to promote the exibition itself and the museum in general.

These performances are new ways to promote the exhibitions, and to enhance the image of the museums. Enable to reach a worldwide audience and to do of interest to their initiatives.

However, we have to wait to see if these initiatives are sustainable economically also for less glamorous exhibitions, which does not have undisputed art stars like Munch or Monet. The initiative of the British Museum is so interested because it is based on a historical exhibition, and then it seeks to broaden the possibilities of use of this new tool.


Francesco Zanibellato



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